Metropolitan Life and Jurisdictional Control

Document Type

Conference Material

Publication Date



Judicial Review, Tribunal, Supreme Court of Canada, Union, Certification, Barrier, Jurisdiction, Quash


To me, and no doubt to many of you, the world of judicial review has at times taken on the appearance of a wasteland of logical swamps and disappearing perspectives, where the only certainty is that the decision of statutory tribunal will be quashed if a superior court finds it offensive. When, in 1970, the Supreme court of Canada rendered its judgment in the Metropolitan Life Insurance case, quashing the decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board on the issue or whether the employees involved were, in fact, members of a union which had applied for certification, I was among those who were prepared to say that the court had simply abandoned the las pretence that there can be any barrier to judicial review. The error made by the tribunal was, after all, on a question which undeniably the Legislature had said the tribunal was to decide. But the Court characterized it as "going to jurisdiction" and therefore as being subject to review, пotwithstanding the presence of a strong privative clause. Since then superior courts in Canada have quashed а good many tribunal decisions on the ground that they involved jurisdictional error. On the other hand, just as before, the courts have also refused to quash а good many tribunal decisions, in a few cases even where the Judge purported not to favour the result. So I suppose as lawyers we must try to make the distinctions. We must try to find a road through the swamps.


Paper was delivered at a Conference held by the Dalhousie Continuing Legal Education Society on December 7, 1974. Published as a collection by the Faculty of Law at Dalhousie University.